The eighteen miles the train had traveled isolated the passengers from the strange happenings at the end of the line in Bucolics. The 504 had boarded and departed without a hitch, just moments before an entire flock of geese crash landed in the island of grass dividing the lanes accessing Bucolics Elementary School. The flock had landed in a more or less “V” formation, except inverted, with the variation attributed to inconsistent tumblings at touchdown. One side of the “V” was longer than the other, as there were more geese in it. More towards the center of town, and much earlier in the morning, the courthouse had been pummeled by pigeons apparently made dumbfound by electrical disturbances due to the lightning during the wee hours of the morning. Those dogs in town left outside overnight were found hanging stiffly by the claws from the chain link walls of their enclosures, no part of them touching the ground. The local homeless paced aimlessly hum-mumbling and slapping at invisible irritations, although this was paid little heed.
Some citizens who witnessed the ferocity of the previous night’s storm attributed these strange occurrences to major upheaval in the protective field of the van allen belts, while others thanked the lord that the obvious city-wide electrical surge was not powerful enough to reach them in their second-story bedrooms as they counted the half-seconds between flash and thunder. After all, car tires had melted to their seal-coated driveways and the flag pole at the police station had an obvious kink in it two-thirds of the way up. But despite these strange phenomena, many of the towns residents had been able to wake up and head to work without seeing any evidence of strangeness, as Ronan and his fellow passengers had done. However, had the rail crew enjoyed success dislodging the bovine impediment, the train would have found itself delayed at precisely every half mile following by the same obstacle.
Ronan was carried back to the train, and in the conductor’s room stripped, wiped down, and redressed in a hodge-podge assortment of train personnel clothing, and given a blanket to swaddle himself in. He groaned deep and long approximately every minute. There was a taste in his mouth of grass and onions, and no amount of gum offered by the train crew, not even of nicotine gum, could cleanse his hostage palate. There was discord at the door; the passengers were amuck. Frank, as the most youthful and least superior of the crew, was sent to handle the crowd.
Frank went through the door into the cabin, back first, still arguing with the crew about his qualifications for the task as hand. He turned as the second door clicked shut behind him, turned into silence, but for the buzzing on the still burning florescent lights running off in lines away from him. Though he did not notice the lights; there was a concave mass of people, jammed as close as possible into a train space as the paired seating could allow, all eyes fixed seriously upon his, and if he had to say later, like to some sort of detective asking about the situation, with maybe a reddish hue to the white of the eye region (the passenger’s eyes), and staring hard; there was a moment where it was all looks for a minute or more, and a sort of repressed pressing, repressed by the seating and limited space in the aisle, but a general scrunching for sure, and a white bread tension that was being squashed and turned into dense pretzel matter between the crowd and him.
“So, ah, folks, um, it seems we have a little bit of a delay on our hands,” Frank began, unsure of where his speech might lead, breaking the ice, really.
A murmur ensued: delay? How long? What sort of delay? Am I going to make it to work? An hour delay, longer? Who’s going to look after Jeffrey, Zoe, Shantel, etc.? When will we get going again? Why are we stopped? Can we get off? The redness in the eyes seemed to intensify, and Frank, who was never much of a public speaker, was losing his nerve.
“Well, I can’t really say the cause of the delay, they don’t tell me much. And as far as the time concerned, well, I can’t say for sure about that either, though I do know we’ve been in touch with the station in BUCOLICS and they have an outfitted truck for the job disembarking in oh say one hour and that should remedy the situation here at least hopefully so if we can all sit down and quietly wait it would be a great help to the crew here that has been trying hard to remedy the situation.”
If there were a town this were to happen to, Bucolics was it. It was populated with very strange people and experienced very strange events, on a fairly regular basis. Regular like an OCD sufferer’s stools. A couple of years prior, a woman who lived on the other side of town from Ronan died. A very stylish woman. She was so stylish, in fact, that many people in Bucolics looked to her to find out how they could be more stylish. She paid extra money to have clothing artificially (and custom) stressed. Her fragrance was subtle and scientifically formulated to match her lip gloss color, which was also the template to which was matched the color of her not flashy but attention grabbing convertible, which was not too fast and not too shiny but just right as far as those things go, just right so it gave the correct impression of her personality. The statement the car made was that this woman had style but it was something that just happened and she didn’t try too hard. It was like a car that you might find at a thrift store, but of course it wasn’t found at a thrift store. It was found in the driveway of a private used car salesman, who bought it at a dealer auction thinking that somebody with rhododendron red lipstick would absolutely adore it. Which she did.
She was stylish about what she did. She took yoga, and was very flexible, and experimented with tantric sex, and had a healthy, ruddy glow about her cheeks which was influenced by both of these sports. She had monthly monogamous relationships and then complained at the end of them that she’d be better off as a lesbian to her girlfriends, who all tried very hard to find men that they could find something wrong with after a month and leave them, so that they too could consider the positive aspects of being a lesbian and then brush it off as a big farce later on. She had a job at an art gallery, holding the fort down and inspecting stylish magazines to get a jump start on any intriguing emerging trends. She developed pointed opinions on the use of coital symbolism in post-neo-modernistic pointillism because such a subject is stylistically taboo, and allowed her the regular practice of her calculated giggle. She read mysteries and watched Oprah and had a model of cell phone that nobody had ever heard of before, but it could do everything including open her garage door. She had a dog that was just ugly enough to be incredibly cute.
She was also very, very stylish about what she ate. She was a regular at the local sushi joint, and ensured that everything she ate was organic and responsibly sourced. She was not a vegetarian; that was just a passing fad that she didn’t even blink twice at. But all organic, and everything she put into her body had a purpose. She was very healthy, didn’t smoke, and three times a week went to the smoothie shop to get a shot of wheat grass puree chased with an orange slice, at a cost of six dollars and eighty-three cents a pop. This was vital. Wheat grass is very healthy for a person, especially if it’s put in a blender and costs seven dollars an ounce.
And so because of all the wheat grass, she began to turn green. And not just because wheat grass isn’t very tasty, but because it is green. Her stylishly fit and trim body began to develop a greenish hue, one that wasn’t very noticeable at first but evolved and progressed over a couple of weeks to a shade that completely clashed with her lip color and the color of her car, which she was no longer able to bring herself to drive in with the top down. Which was a shame, because she didn’t know it, but she had just reached the pinnacle of stylishness and developed the ability to perform photosynthesis. No shit. She no longer had to eat, because her body produced energy with only sunlight and water and carbon dioxide. And driving around town on sunny days with the top down on her convertible would have been the perfect way of nourishing herself. But the process of photosynthesis clashed so awkwardly with her methodical and calculated style that she could no longer bring herself to even leave her house, and began ordering for food to be sent to her door and only opening the door enough to exchange the money and food. But her body had progressed to the point where normal human food was not enough; she should have been eating fertilizer and sitting in a tanning bed, and if she’d done that she might have grown ten feet tall (stylishly tall) and her labia might have transformed into a calla lily Georgia O’Keeffe style, delicate and fertile, open for pollination, cozier than pointillism. But she didn’t, and she wilted and withered and when they found her she was lying on the floor in her kitchen dead with one scraggly arm pointed at the southern facing kitchen window.
And then there was the guy who hummed. It had started out as a gargantuan problem. The first time was while he worked on a roof. He was a roofer, and used to treading on the hot sticky felt tacked to hard pitched decking, capable of navigating the slope like a rubbery hoofed goat. He’d fallen once before, but it was a short drop into a recently tilled garden plot, and he walked away from a cartoon-like impression in the earth sore but unharmed. He was given the rest of the day leave with pay, and returned without his confidence shaken. But the time he went through the roof was startling.
Startling in that he didn’t remember what had happened. The structure was sound, and he could have sworn he was working mid-way up – nowhere near the unsheeted gap at the top which his foreman suspected he went through. He woke up on the second floor below the spot where he thought he had been working. But his head was throbbing and he couldn’t remember exactly what he was doing prior to waking up inside the house. If it was a remodel they would have wondered, there would have been busted sheet rock to explain, there would have been evidence. Or maybe not, maybe he’d stopped humming just before hitting the floor. No one saw him fall, and around coffee and cigarettes the other workers supposed that he had rolled on the floor to the spot they found him inside the house.
It bothered him enough that he quit. Something he’d never done besides for reasons of relocation. Didn’t like to quit, thought it was a coward’s way out, thought quitting meant he was beat. But in this case he was, because he could’ve swore…
But he did quit, couldn’t get a handle on what had happened, and besides had bruised himself enough that he couldn’t work for a while. Luckily nothing had broken, and there were no signs of a concussion, so he didn’t feel like a louse living off the government teat or however those workman’s comp deals worked. Or screw his boss over, who’d given him a chance and let him borrow tools ’til he had his own and hadn’t judged him useless even when he’d forgotten to bungee the ladder to the rack in his first week and it went skidding into a four way stop where there were thankfully no cars, though there was a pair of laughing teenagers and two brand new scrapes down the front of the hood. The truck was well used but he’d had to stare down the front of it on the way to and from jobs jammed between the boss and another worker, reminded daily of such a humiliating mistake.
Bucolics was a small gray town and it was in the weekly newspaper the next time it happened when he fell right through the seat of his car doing forty down a two lane road and rolled on the rough pavement as the car went shooting forward on it’s most recent trajectory up the bank on the side of the road and straight into a telephone pole. It was an unusually straight stretch of road, luckily, one supposes, because the car had sixty yards to lose steam plus the effort of a high bank so that the bumper was racked and pushed back into the now mauled radiator, but otherwise the car was without other mechanical distress.
He called his sister who called the police who called a wrecker, and he did his best to hide the road rash and told twice the story of how he’d fallen asleep at the wheel and woke up against the pole and hoped he hadn’t knocked out power to the houses nearby and by the grace of god hadn’t hurt anybody including himself. He didn’t say how he had suddenly found himself outside the vehicle without any reasonable explanation, rolling like a hubcap loosed by a fender bender.
The newspaper reported it as he had told it, and no one really thought anything of it but himself. It was a strange occurrence, and he had not passed out, and had known exactly what had happened. He’d fallen through his seat. Not through a hole in the floorboard, not out an improperly latched door. Through the seat, through the floor, through the chassis and the car had kept moving around him as his ass skidded on the pavement and he started to roll.
The problems increased. One time he put his hand into a silverware drawer through his kitchen counter. He probably would have kept on going but pulled it out just in time. He entertained the notion that he was crazy, as anybody might. But the abrasions were still sore on his hips and forearms, and he otherwise felt reasonably sane.
Finally he realized that it only happened when he hummed. But he hummed a lot, and it didn’t always happens, so he knew it wasn’t just humming; it had to be the way he hummed, maybe a certain tune or note or the loudness of the humming or some combination of these possibilities. He spent some weeks not humming at all. Which was tough, because he definitely did idly hum a lot, and so had to catch himself and like think about not humming, which as it turns out is actually a pretty weird thing to think about. But it was scary to think about possibly breaking the laws of physics that played such a vital role in his existence, so. But after a couple of weeks of trying not to hum at all, he decided to do some scientific type testing, and went out to a park on a very pleasant day thinking that the park would be a sort of safe place to experiment. And so he experimented first with hum loudness, going from a deep vibration in his throat that was more felt in his teeth than heard to a loud yell hum, which eventually morphed into something which was not really a hum at all, so he ruled out volume as the quote problem. And so he began his search for the magnificent tone.
He was lying on his back on the grass in the sun when he hit it, and immediately found himself 6 inches underground. He had only a couple of minutes to reflect on the fact that at least he had discovered this power and that his family would not need to pay for burial costs, but his last moments were not long enough to realize that the tone quite possibly depended on the material that he made his atoms vibrate in accordance with so as to allow easy passage through. As his body decomposed, the ground above his skeleton sunk in, creating exactly the second cartoonish body imprint his life had left in the dirt.